Paris (mythology)

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Paris (Greek: Πάρις; also known as Alexander or Alexandros, c.f. Alaksandu of Wilusa), the son of Priam, king of Troy, appears in a number of Greek legends. Probably the best-known was his elopement with Helen, queen of Sparta, this being one of the immediate causes of the Trojan War. Later in the war, he fatally wounds Achilles in the heel with an arrow, as foretold by Achilles's mother, Thetis.

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Paris's childhood

Paris was a child of Priam and Hecuba (see List of King Priam's children). Just before his birth, his mother dreamed that she gave birth to a flaming torch. This dream was interpreted by the seer Aesacus as a foretelling of the downfall of Troy, and he declared that the child would be the ruin of his homeland. On the day of Paris's birth it was further announced by Aesacus that the child born of a royal Trojan that day would have to be killed to spare the kingdom, being the child that would bring about the prophecy. Though Paris was indeed born before nightfall, he was spared by Priam; Hecuba, too, was unable to kill the child, despite the urging of the priestess of Apollo, one Herophile. Instead, Paris's father prevailed upon his chief herdsman, Agelaus, to remove the child and kill him. The herdsman, unable to use a weapon against the infant, left him exposed on Mount Ida, hoping he would perish there (cf: Oedipus); he was, however, suckled by a she-bear. Returning after nine days, Agelaus was astonished to find the child still alive, and brought him home in a backpack (πήρα, hence Paris's name, which means "backpack") to rear as his own. He returned to Priam bearing a dog's tongue as evidence of the deed's completion.[1]

Paris's noble birth was betrayed by his outstanding beauty and intelligence; while still a child he routed a gang of cattle-thieves and restored the animals they had stolen to the herd, thereby earning the surname Alexander ("protector of men").[2] It was at this time that Oenone became Paris's first lover. She was a nymph from Mount Ida in Phrygia. Her father was Cebren, a river-god (other sources declare her to be the daughter of Oeneus). She was skilled in the arts of prophecy and medicine, which she had been taught by Rhea and Apollo respectively. When Paris later left her for Helen she told him that if ever he was wounded, he should come to her for she could heal any injury, even the most serious wounds.

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